Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club

THe fishing camp

Fishing camp circa 1895
Source: Luc Lamond

Sport fishing is said to have originated in England, particularly fly fishing which appeared in Quebec around the 19 th century. This activity, linked to leisure and relaxation, was practiced by professionals, high-ranking military officers, industrialists and politicians, who sometimes came from as far away as the United States or Europe to experience the Quebec wilderness that Tolfrey praised in 1845 in his book 'The Sportsman in Canada'.

To encourage this tourist development and to curb the uncontrolled deforestation that was weakening the health of the rivers and lakes, the provincial government decided to introduce hunting and fishing rights (1858) and to facilitate the creation of private clubs (1885) while linking them to the obligation to conserve fish and their environment.

A resort

Hôtel du Lac-des-Seize-Îles, circa 1905
Source: McCord Museum

At the beginning of the 20 th century, Lac des Seize Îles quickly acquired a reputation as a well-stocked lake, attracting serious anglers from Montreal and the surrounding area. Three resorts could accommodate them: the Hôtel du Lac-des-Seize-Îles, the Mountain Rest Inn and Mr. Burch's pension. Second homes, from simple cabins to larger cottages, sprang up around the lake and on the islands, 
thanks to the labour and materials available in the village.

The lakers

Florence and Laura Tester on the dock of the Mountain Rest, ca. 1901.
Source: Luc Lamond, Peter Johnson collection

Seasonal residents who enjoyed the pleasures of fishing included sportsmen the likes of Stackhouse, Cook, Brunet, Rodger, Tester, Calder, McOuat, Ludington and Brunet. Many lived in Westmount, others in Lachute. They were lawyers, businessmen, dentists or doctors, they shared a culture, a language, a lifestyle that distinguished them from the villagers who worked at the mill or on the railroad and most of whom were French-speaking. The former were nicknamed the 'Lakers,' the latter, 'the village people.'

The club

Fishermen at the Mountain Rest Inn, circa 1900
Source: Luc Lamond, Peter and Sheilagh Johnson Collection

In the absence of a local governing body, the Lakers banded together around common concerns and formed the Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club in 1907.

Although the mission of the organization was to grant fishing licenses and to assist in the application of laws and regulations for the protection of fish in the province of Quebec, the club intervened, among other things, on the sale of alcohol, in times of prohibition, on the security of lake properties during the winter period or on the quality of railway service. These actions, which went beyond the sphere of competence of a fishing club, were made possible by the presence of a Justice of the Peace from Argenteuil, Dr. B. S. Stackhouse, among its members.

Beginning in February 1914, when the municipality was incorporated, the Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club refocused its activities around fisheries management, preservation and the promotion of boating safety.

Fishing control

From left to right: a friend, Walter Cushing (club founder), Rowe Jeffrey, James Stanley Cook (club founder) at the mouth of Kelly Creek, early 20th century.
Source: Luc Lamond, Sheilagh Johnson collection

The quality and abundance of brown and brook trout (also known as red or speckled trout) was a priority for the club. A warden was hired to enforce rules such as catch limits and the prohibition of night fishing and seine fishing (a weighted net). This was not an easy position to fill, as some non-member residents did not take kindly to being policed in this way. A certain diplomacy was required:

'Wallace Beavan, Lac-des-Seize-Îles fisheries warden, reported that he himself had seized a 75-foot-long gill net, but was unable to locate the owner.'
- Extract from the minutes of the general assembly of August 4, 1923.

In 1933, members built a breeding station, an experiment that lasted three years. The number of trout in the lake was estimated at 40,000.

Change of mission

Swim competition for young club members
Source: Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club

On August 29, 1948, the Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club opened its new clubhouse on Green Island. As the popularity of sport fishing on the lake waned, the club shifted its focus to programming family recreational activities. Dances, regattas, swimming lessons, boat decorating contests and original competitions such as greasy pole and tilting have punctuated the members' summer calendar for many 

Over time, the number of clubs with exclusive fishing rights in Quebec had greatly increased and reached 2000 in 1965. As public frustration mounted, the Quebec government revoked all licenses in 1970. This opening to the public brought other challenges to the health of Sixteen Islands Lake. The implementation of controls became necessary for the preservation of this exceptional environment whose fragility is still present.

The name of the Sixteen Island Lake Fishing Club was fortunately retained despite the change in its mission, as it carries with it an important part of Lac-des-Seize-Îles history. 

Extract of
Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage

Lac-des-Seize-Iles... History and Heritage image circuit

Presented by : Municipalité de Lac-des-Seize-Îles
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